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All posts for the month June, 2015

June is over

Published June 30, 2015 by Jackie

Well today is the last day of June, and that’s the year half-done. My birthday is 2 weeks past, another year older another year wiser? Maybe not… The best compliment I got this year was that I neither look nor act my age, so that’s a relief. I’ve proved that my hair isn’t actually as grey as I thought it might be, after several years of hard-core colour is finally grown and cut out. And I’ve started a new beauty routine at night, proving you’re never too old to change the habits of a lifetime! While it’s hard to tell if this routine has changed my face, one thing is for sure, my elbows have never been softer, from the excess night cream rubbed there!

I’ve given in to an increase in my diabetes medication, though I am still taking half the dose my doctor recommends ~ I did this slowly and watched for side effects, and one day realised that my vision was better on the day I took a tablet twice a day instead of just one.

Good news is my blood-sugar readings have been falling each week, from 14.8 to 11 to 10.4 to 9.3 to 7.4 this morning! (aiming for 5!) That last reading is despite missing some of my meds due to the fact I was rattling from so many pills for a summer cold, or rather the headache the congestion had caused…

~~~~ that’s my life progress, but what about my crafts ~~~~

I didn’t do an awful lot of knitting with a headache, but I did get my lovely Arrowhead cardigan finished, and am very pleased with it. It needs a steam block with an iron, and some kind of fastener to close it at the neck (I’m thinking a metal toggle of the kind used in jewellery, I have a few sets to choose from). The cardigan is just a wee bit shorter than I’d have liked, it sits on the top of my hip, but the sleeves are longer than the pattern suggested, so it’s a decent balance. I was pretty good at judging when to start the edge and how much yarn I’d need to add a stretchy cast-off ~ only 2+ metres of yarn left from two full skeins of Wollmeise Blend.

It’s put me in mind to knit more simple lace, more on that later.

I also finished Eleanor’s snuggle jumper yesterday. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, I used every inch of 8 balls of Limestone Twilley’s for the garter body, and three of Coal for the sleeves and bottom rib, along with one ball of Flint for the neck. I won’t sew in ends until she’s tried it on, hope it fits, I think it will, and that she likes it, but it’s a jumper to wear around the house over PJs, to snuggle in, so I think she’ll okay it. That’s 12 balls to deduct from stash!

I’ve been sensible and deleted a couple of recent projects from my page that weren’t likely to happen any time soon ~ one a toy, feel bad, just I’m not a natural with toys, and one a wrap, pending, not started, feel no guilt there, except about buying the pattern.

Being not very sensible (1) and bought “artisan-roasted” yarn from Old Maiden Aunt ~ her description not mine ~ she had a small fire in a dye-pot left on the burner, lots of smoke damage to stock, nothing serious, no-one hurt except a few bank-balances buying said smoke-damaged stock at a reduced price ~ of course it was easier if we each wash our purchases than if Lilith had to re-wash the entire stock on the shelves. We’re very accommodating that way, us knitters! (ahem did I mention I went back for another purchase, well I couldn’t leave it there on the shelf for Lilith to wash!)

Being not very sensible (2) and put a birthday wish out for ‘clown-barf’ Wollmeise colours, and one wish being granted, a skein of Martha has landed from Finland. Of course this kind of birthday wish involves handing over money… We’re very accommodating that way, us knitters!

Being not entirely sensible (3) and buying a pattern for a triangular shawl when you’ve vowed you’ve knit a life-time of triangular shawls, but this one is the very singular Mahy from dear Karie Westermann ~ and I have the very yarn for it in my stash ~ if I’m honest, I pretty much have the yarn for anything in my stash!

Casting on? I’ve only cast on one thing this week, and that was another freebie pattern, this time an Artesano pattern called Paloma. Short-sleeved top, with a garter yoke and stocking stitch body.

There was a skein of dark Im Dunklen Wald in Pure Wollmeise just hanging around, already wound up, I think I found it in a box one day a while ago, and left it out to inspire me. Lots of black and bright greens, I shall pair it with Schwartz (black) for the body. If it works for my body, it might be the perfect pattern to use up variegated and matching skeins of Wollmeise.

I’m thinking Die Auster and Aquarius, Mauerbluemchen and Ballerina (or another purple) and one of those mad multicolours, like Martha, with Ooohm or Koralle. Just noting down ideas, folks!

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Movies

Published June 24, 2015 by Jackie

Last night I went to the movies with my friends. Not any old movies, it’s that time of year when the city buzzes with visitors to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and we went to see two films, both at the Odeon complex on Lothian Rd.

We’ve not been there in ages, we tend to go to Filmhouse and Cameo for movies, and Omni for the occasional mainstream blockbuster, but I’d certainly consider the Odeon in future. In fact it had been so long since my friend was there, she walked on up Lothian Rd past what was once the entrance, now a pizza place, and didn’t know how to get in to the cinema.

I’d not really looked at the EIFF programme for this year, my friend had texted from the cinema on Sunday, while they were there and could buy the tickets, did we want to see this film? It’s about an Iranian dancer… heck yes, that’s all we need to say yes! Hadn’t we just been to Glasgow the day before specifically for 4 dance-related short films as part of the Cottier Project, at the Grosvenor in the West End. A nine-hour round trip if you include the time we spent having lunch before and coffee after, and about 3 hours on CityLink coaches. So of course we’d jump at the chance for something showing locally! Oh and yeah, while you’re buying, tickets for Ben Kingsley’s latest film won’t go amiss either…

L was late… what’s new? L is always late! L is an artist and works from home, and never experiences city centre rush-hour traffic, so she regularly gets caught out like this. I work quite close, so could walk and was there early, M was taking a dance class and had to rush up from the Grassmarket!

We got into the screen with just a couple of minutes to spare, and were lucky enough to find the last 3 seats together, way up the back row, and settled down. And then were greeted by an announcement that the film director was here, and would take a Q&A session afterwards. I feel a bit awkward about things like this ~ we were seeing another movie 20 minutes after this one ended, and what if we just hated the film and wanted out? We were kinda stuck up the back!

So, here’s the blurb…

Desert Dancer, the ultimate dance for freedom…
Afshin has always loved to dance, but in his home country of Iran it is illegal. From dance classes as a boy to undercover dance clubs, Afshin has repeatedly defied society’s laws in order to pursue his passion. In the light of mounting pressure from the government, how long can Afshin and his friends continue to perform in secret? Based on the inspirational true story of choreographer Afshin Ghaffarian.

Firstly, I was surprised to discover that this wasn’t a documentary. Secondly, not a subtitle in sight! This was a drama, based on a true story, in English. And you know, not every political story has to be told in an earnest, political manner. Once the movie settled in to Afshin’s life as a student at university, and we started to see some powerful, expressive dance, I warmed towards this. Sometimes, telling a story from a different angle makes you stop and think.

I knew about the repressive regime in Iran, but not the reality of day-to-day life for ordinary people who dare to be different. I’ve seen different police uniforms in Cairo, tourist police, traffice police, diplomatic security, and as part of a group have been assigned an equally sized group of tourist police to follow our vehicle at all times on a day-trip, or discovered that the quiet guy at the front of the bus is our policeman, but this is all strictly from the tourist angle. Egypt is and continues to be a police state.

But to have morality police watching your every move is unimaginable for the average westerner, to have them threaten you, beat you up, demand you to shop your friends to them, beat you up for refusing. We don’t have a clue, with our first-world-complaints.

Several familiar faces appeared in the movie, Frieda Pinto from Slumdog, and Tom Cullen, who I couldn’t place until this morning, when imdb reminded me he was in Downton. and a couple of others too.

But what shines in this movie is the dancing, and now I understand why… It was choreographed by Akram Khan, and he’d won the Astaire award for this movie. I saw Akram perform last year in the International Festival, his final piece in Gnosis, inspired by the Mahabharata, where the queen is burned to death in a forest fire, is one of the most electric and incredible pieces of dance I have ever seen.

At the end of the movie, Afshin dances on the stage in Paris, having taken a friend’s place in an acting troupe, and there to claim political asylum. That final dance re-enacted the beatings he had taken from the morality police in Tehran, and as the movie cut between a reprise of the beatings, and the dance, you almost expected blood to spatter across the stage. It was powerful stuff.

After the movie, director Richie Raymond explained the making of movie more to us, the stories that had been reworked or cut altogether; how Frieda Pinto took dance classes 8 hours a day for a whole year, Reece Richie and his moonwalking competitions, and his doppelganger likeness to Afshin Ghaffarian, and how they had changed the film ending when, heartbreakingly, the real Elaheh (played by Frieda Pinto in the movie) had died of a heroin overdose in Tehran just a few months ago.

This was actually Richie Raymond’s first movie; it was 93 minutes long, filmed in Morocco, London and Paris, and was astounding for a first movie. As the EIFF interviewer said, most first movies feature a cast of two and are filmed in a bedroom. I predict great things for Richie Raymond, and will seek out his future movies.

After finding out that the movie was pretty much crowd-funded by a few hundred people in the UK, made in the UK and Morocco, the only country NOT to pick up the distribution rights is the UK. Shame on them, they said a movie about repression, a movie about Iran, a movie about dance, and heaven forbid, a movie about all three, not a chance of funding that…. To then say ‘It’s for women, and women don’t go to the cinema’, shame on them again! While I refuse to add the hashtags #everydaysexism or #vagenda to my tweets, don’t think I don’t agree with them!

If only I could recommend you catch the next screening, but this only screened twice at the Festival. Richie urged us to tweet and demand this is picked up and distributed in the UK. Desert Dancer was also part of the EIFF Audience Award, we all gave this five stars, so I hope it’s about the percentage of viewers who give this top marks, not the number of bums on seats…

Oh and Mr Kingsley’s movie, The Driving Lesson, was perfectly charming, and probably deserved more stars than we gave, but we all want Desert Dancer to win. I hope it does!

Busy old me!

Published June 22, 2015 by Jackie

It looks like it has been about six or seven weeks since my last blog post, and I promise that I’m not neglecting you, dear readers. It’s been a busy old time, and I have fitted in two 5-day trips to London in that time, one for work and one for pleasure.

The first trip south was for a family wedding, few and far between in my family; my nephew was the one getting married, my older brother’s third son ~ he has four in all, fine young men! So we all turned out for the wedding, which was in the garden of a lovely old Cotswold friary turned farmhouse, and then to the reception, back over the border to Wiltshire, to the bride’s local village hall. I travelled across with my younger brother and his family, as I was spending the weekend in London with them. It was a bit of a squash in the back of the car, but I thought that was a better option than staying in nearby hotels without any means of transport between venues.

It was a wonderful day, and so good to make family connections again; from that one event, a few more local(ish) meet-ups will be happening here in Scotland. My brother’s first two sons, grown men, both live in Scotland, one here in Edinburgh, and one in Aberdeen. The eldest now has a daughter (already past 2 years old and I have not met her yet), so later in the summer, a day trip to Aberdeen is planned.

And when my nieces visit in July, we are hoping to have a picnic in the park (any park) with next nephew (who lives in Edinburgh), his girlfriend Carmen, and most importantly, their shih-tzu Bobby. (my younger brother, the girls’ father, is asthmatic, so no dogs allowed there). I had planned to take my nieces to Maison du Moggy but that particular Stockbridge cat-cafe has moved into town, and they are much more excited about meeting Bobby than meeting cats.

Busy old knitting time too! Of course, I had to finish my wedding present, a cotton denim version of Vivid, 56 squares in total. I travelled down with two Vivid blankets, as I used the occasion to hand over the blanket I’d made for my great-niece. I was delighted to find out that her favourite colour is purple ~ most kids seem to love purple!

Also on my needles:
I’m also working on a cardigan for myself, in Wollmeise’s new Blend yarn, think wonderful Wollmeise colours with added cashmere, mmmm! I managed to snaffle two skeins in a Ravelry destash, and am just finishing the 3/4 length sleeves, before I knit down the body til I have no yarn left. It is lovely, it’s that deep dark magenta that is Petit Poison Dark, almost like an aubergine, but not quite so purple. I’m making the Arrowhead Lace cardigan, a free pattern on Ravelry, by Suzanne Sommer.

Next, my niece asked for ‘a jumper like her sister got’ (because the beautiful yoked Norwegian sweater I made her is just too snug and warm for London wear ~ bah!). Her sister got an enormous ‘snuggle-jumper’, Stephen West’s Ombre Yarn-Eater made out of Twilley’s Freedom in various stone colours. I’d also started a Boreal with this yarn, but lost hope around the armpits. So I frogged all the Limestone shade, and started knitting Outer Space by Stephen West. The double-thickness neck was from the one ball of Flint I could find at the time. Then I started the body in Limestone, but soon decided I didn’t like the increases, too ‘holey’, even tho that was the part of the design. So I turned back to the Ombre pattern, and worked the yoke based on those increases, while remaining in garter stitch. I probably have just enough Limestone for the body, so I decided I would incorporate a third Stephen West pattern from my Ravelry library, Glam Lamb, for the sleeves. These are in a third stone shade, Coal, and I’m simply knitting as I frog the Boreal sleeves. The whole overall effect is not unlike Shaun the Sheep, which we watched as a family the next time I visited. Eleanor I think will love the humour! Got two weeks to finish this one….

Working on a communal baby blanket… I say communal, what I really mean is that I knit 80%, another colleague knit 16% and 16 other colleagues knit the remaining 4%. It is at the sewing together stage, and I really must get that done tonight, but I’ve been saying that for two weeks now. Baby is due any time from now, but the due date is the 29th. The person most likely to visit once the baby is born is now on holiday for a week, so that’s my target for completion. I shall be tagging this blanket with photos of everyone adding their stitches, and we’ve already achieved some notoriety on Twitter, so will add a screen-shot of that too!

And finally, I have finally found the perfect project for some strange aran-weight cotton yarn that I bought in a bargain bin. It’s called Solavita by SMC, and after 2 failed attempts at a summer top, I decided to make a couple of market bags, and at last it is proceeding at pace. (After I ripped out the first one to the bottom of the mesh, having forgotten to go up a few needle sizes) It’s the perfect thing for social knitting, a 2-row repeat, and I should have just enough for two large market bags. We now have to pay 5p for all carrier bags in Scotland, though that money goes direct to charity, so we all try to carry a shopper at all times. Not everyone has a hand knitted one though!

Upcoming projects include a Brooklyn Tweed cardi for my brother. He’s been after something knitted with Harris Tweed yarn, but that seems to be no longer available, so I swatched in brioche with Jamieson’s DK in Peat, which is in my stash already. In an inspired moment, I’d remembered the latest Wool People had been mostly menswear, so I told him what to look up on his iPad, and Shield was the choice, which is great, because I’ve just taken a brioche class with Nancy Marchant.

And once my Wollmeise cardi is finished, I shall be making a wee top in the same colour, but in the sock-yarn, not sure which Petit Poison is in my stash but I think it is Pure! I’ve found an ideal pattern already, so watch this space. Oh and some fast and furious socks too ;0)